Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Word From This Blogger

Dear Reader,

Thank you for following this blog over the years or thanks for visiting for the first time. This is not a goodbye but rather HELLO AGAIN! I'm a creature of habit. I used to do this out of habit, then I stopped doing it out of habit. Tonight, I'm resuming the healthy old habit of posting here nearly daily. I also have over a 1-1/2 year's worth of back posts to drop here which will be coming in on a regular basis. The best way to see them is scroll back through my posts in sequence. I'll update this blog post and keep it at the top of this blog with notices of what back-posts have been dropped here and what dates they can be found at and links to them via their hyperlinked titles. Please keep coming back and I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

See   Picture of the Day - Post-Storm #3   (1/25/2019)

Last updated 6/30/2019

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Highway 41 Fire Student Documentary

On August 14, 2019, I had lunch in San Luis Obispo with my 7th grade history teacher Mike Burrell. He was my favorite teacher at Atascadero Junior High School (now Atascadero Middle School) when I was there 1983-1985. En route there from my home in Paso Robles it felt odd to me driving southbound on Highway 101 through the former Highway 41 Fire burn area. It was 25 years to the day after it started and that area would burn the next day. My drive included the area adjacent to Santa Margarita Ranch where the fire jumped the highway as a massive 100 foot wide fire tornado. It also included the entrance to Tassajara Canyon which experienced area ignition conditions when the fire roared through. And lastly, it included Cuesta Grade which was charred entirely, top to bottom, north and south sides of Cuesta Summit.

During lunch I brought this up with Mike and he informed me that in 1995, the year following the Highway 41 Fire, at which point he was then working at Oak Hills High School in Atascadero, he had his students put together a student documentary about the fire. After creating it they burned it on to blank VHS cassettes and sold them for $10 each for a fundraising drive.  After lunch I visited his home in SLO for the first time as we were reconnecting after all these years. Heretofore we merely briefly chatted on Facebook from time to time. Mike gave me the grand tour of his library/museum/arboretum/home which was a lot of fun. Before I left he handed me the only extant version of the documentary on disk. I asked him if I could burn some copies and donate them as well as upload the documentary to Youtube to which Mike generously accented.

Back in Paso Robles I took this disk to The Blueprinter and they directed me to Gallagher Video Services in town. I made an appointment and met with Ron Gallagher and told him my expectations. I wanted several copies of this documentary burned and I wanted nice graphic design for them that was apropos in labeling the product and I wanted an mp4 copy of it burned onto a flash drive so I could upload it to Youtube. I did this last week and today it was ready and here you go. At top is the documentary on Youtube. In the middle is the old disk and directly above is a copy of the new disk version produced by Ron Gallagher. Nicely done I think.

Mike also handed me a photocopy of an old SLO Tribune article from 1995 which recounts the story of this documentary. Read it above and if need be zoom in closer so the print is legible.

Monday, August 26, 2019

2009 Station Fire 10th Anniversary

It's hard to believe that the infamous 2009 Station Fire which ravage the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County above the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys began 10 years ago today. Where has the time gone? This conflagration remains the largest fire in the history of Los Angeles County. Above is a preview to the Alan Simmons video production for this fire which I have yet to add to my collection. Perhaps someday that will happen. This is a great sampling in the meantime. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Highway 41 Fire Student Video

Photo by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved)

Today I had lunch in San Luis Obispo with my junior high school history mentor Mike Burrell. He was one of those special teachers who left an indelible impression upon me and encouraged my early interest in history. Life took my down a series of unexpected detours so the fruit of his labors with me did not begin blossoming until my 40s when I picked up an AA degree in History at Cuesta College and a BA in History at CAL POLY SLO. Given that today was the 25th anniversary of the Big Blow-Up of the Highway 41 on Day Two of its existence, and I had to drive right through the burn scare of the fire going to San Luis Obispo and back again, it seemed like a perfect coda to this day that Mr. Burrell revealed to me that in 1995 his classes at Oak Hills High School in Atascadero for the first anniversary of the event had created a video documentary about the fire centered around various local video footage taken by local residents and firefighters of the historic conflagration. He also gave me a photocopy of an article in the local SLO Tribune about the video. He has loaned me his copy of the documentary on disc which I am going to copy and upload to Youtube and share on this blog very soon I hope.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

25th Anniversary of Highway 41 Fire

Twenty-five years ago today the Highway 41 Fire began along the eastbound lane of Highway 41 between Atascadero and Morro Bay near Cerro Alto Campground. The fire, started by an arsonist, exploded across several thousand acres on Day One forcing evacuations, closure of Cerro Alto Campground and closure of Highway 41 between Morro Bay and Atascadero and would remain shut for days to come. The fire barely laid down overnight and reactivated the following morning at dawn making a major run to the west and southwest towards Morro Bay and Highway 1.

At about 6 a.m. on the morning of Day Two (8/15/94) it's early-morning activity caused an automatic power shutdown of the 500kv powerlines running through the area of Cerro Alto Campground taking energy from the Morro Bay Powerplant to points inland.

Day Two saw the fire go nuclear. Well-established in heavy 50 year-old chaparral with up to 40 tons of fuel per acre, most of it desiccated from years of drought (1984-1990) with lots of fallen limbs from two snow storms in 1988 and 1991, an epic freeze in 1990 and then in this year one of the driest winters (Winter of 1993-1994) ever recorded and now on this day triple digit temperatures (hundred-teens inland) with single digit relative humidities. The firestorm that ensued burned up 2 acres per second or over 7,000 acres per hour

The fire savagely tore into the west side of Atascadero, but for the grace of God, causing light damage. It then headed southeast nipping the southwest corner of Atascadero and enveloping the town of Santa Margarita but burning around it, NOT through it.

It jumped Highway 101 and burned both sides of the freeway from just south of Santa Barbara Road in Atascadero all the way down to the bottom of the south side of the Cuesta Grade on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo. The fire burned over Tassajera Ridge and lost steam heading down into Upper Lopez Canyon by which time a day days later a strong marine layer moved inland and dropped coastal drizzle on the fire dousing it.

The fire devastated Tassajara Canyon off of the bottom of the north side of the Cuesta Grade. In all 48,352 acres were charred and 42 homes, 61 other structures and 91 vehicles were destroyed. The arsonist was interviewed but there was never enough evidence to indict.

I have always wondered why a civil case was not pursued against this individual as was successfully done against the arsonist who started the Painted Cave Fire four years earlier.